Suspect in Log Cabin assault is servicemember; incident may still be classified as hate crime

Officer Laura Martin

The suspect accused of assaulting a member of Log Cabin Republicans and calling him a “faggot” on Saturday at the Hilton Anatole is a member of the military, according to Laura Martin, the Dallas Police Department’s LGBT liaison officer.

Martin said a police report from the incident indicates that the suspect, a 27-year-old male, is a supervisor or sergeant in the military who was responding to perceived sexual harassment of a subordinate. Other sources suggested that the suspect is a member of the Marines. The suspect’s name is being withheld because Dallas Voice doesn’t typically identify people charged with misdemeanors.

DPD declined to release a copy of the police report from the incident, which occurred at about 1 a.m. Saturday in the lobby bar of the Hilton Anatole, where Log Cabin was holding its National Convention.

Martin said even though the victim has chosen not to press charges — meaning the case will not be prosecuted — DPD may classify the incident as an anti-gay hate crime for the purposes of reporting it to the FBI. She said the police report indicates that someone at the victim’s table — but not the victim — “catcalled” and made sexual gestures toward someone at the suspect’s table, adding that both the suspect and the victim were intoxicated at the time of the incident.

“Someone who was at the complainant’s [victim's] table saw someone who he thought was attractive at another table. When he pointed him out and when the guy got up to to go to the restroom, at least one person catcalled him and made sexual gestures in an obvious manner,” Martin said. “So he went back to his table and told his supervisor, who is also in the military. The supervisor went over then to the table where the guys were to say, ‘Please stop.’ When he went over there to the table the complainant [victim] stood up as he was addressing the group, and the arrested person viewed that as aggressive toward him, so he pushed him down, and that’s how he became injured. I don’t know if the complainant was standing up because he needed to go to the restroom, or if he was standing up to argue, or if he was standing up to stretch his legs, but the guy who was arrested said he viewed it as aggressive.”

—  John Wright

Navy says ensign from E. Texas suffered unfair retaliation over anti-gay harassment complaint

A while back we told you about Steve Crowston, the Navy ensign from East Texas who accused his commanders of anti-gay harassment after he received a list of potential call signs that included “Romo’s Bitch,” “Gay Boy,” “Fagmeister” and “Cowgirl.”

Over the weekend, Crowston sent along word that he’d won a victory in his case.

According to Fox News, the Navy’s Inspector General has ruled that Crowston suffered unfair retaliation after filing a complaint about the harassment, in the form of a bad performance evaluation:

Crowston’s complaint named Commander Liam Bruen, 42, who gave the 37-year-old ensign “the “the worst performance appraisal” in his 16 years of service.

The Navy now says at least one of Crowston’s complaints has been confirmed.

“Department of Navy Naval IG substantiates the allegation that the then commanding officer of VFA 136 gave Crowston an unfavorable fitness report in reprisal for a sexual harassment and hostile work environment complaint he filed,” Navy spokesman Lt. Myers Vasquez told FoxNews.com. The Navy did not name Bruen, but FoxNews.com has independently confirmed his identity.

Vasquez said the department has forwarded its findings on to Bruen’s commanding officer, who will decide what, if any, corrective action to take.

Former Judge Advocate General Jeff Addicott says Bruen’s commander will have little choice but to take strong action.

The story goes on to say that the Navy’s investigation of Crowston’s original complaint is ongoing, and no action will be taken against Bruen until it’s complete.

UPDATE: Here’s a statement we just received from Crowston:

“I’m very pleased to see the system get it right with the reprisal investigation. The system needs to get it right the 2nd time around regarding the anti-gay harassment. It should not take this much effort to have what was clearly anti-gay harassment and hazing by senior Navy leadership be substantiated. I hope my efforts in seeking justice will inspire others out there who have been discriminated against because of their actual or perceived sexual orientation. Adults can not continue to allow anti-gay harassment and bigotry to occur. We, as adults, must show our children that they are individuals who are allowed to live in America without being prejudiced against, retaliated against, or harassed because of their actual or perceived sexual orientation. Hatred is not okay.”

—  John Wright

DISD approves LGBT-inclusive bullying policy

William Morvant, a gay student at Booker T. Washington High School, addresses the DISD board of trustees while other audience members from the LGBT community stand in support on Thursday.

Following a discussion in which several named their own personal schoolyard tormentor, the Dallas Independent School District’s board of trustees voted unanimously Thursday evening to approve a comprehensive new bullying policy that specifically protects LGBT students.

Trustees also heard from several members of the LGBT community, including two students, before voting 9-0 to approve the policy, enacted in the wake of a string of gay teen suicides across the nation.

The policy, spearheaded by trustees Bernadette Nutall and Lew Blackburn, reportedly makes DISD the first district in the state to specifically prohibit bullying based on both sexual orientation and gender identity/expression.

“School should be one of those places that we call a safe haven,” said Blackburn, who said his bully “Brandon” took his lunch money every day. “If we are fearful for our physical being, then our intellectual being is not going to benefit.”

Blackburn said the board tried to make the policy as inclusive as possible and drew on policies from Broward County, Fla., Los Angeles and Michigan.

“I’m hopeful that the administration will implement this policy with full vigor whereby all of our students will have protections,” Blackburn said. “Safe schools is one of our goals, it’s always been one of our goals. It’s not only about somebody coming to a school building with a gun or a knife. Safe schools mean being safe from people like Brandon.”

Nutall took the opportunity to apologize to DISD students who’ve been bullied, including those who spoke Thursday.

“I commend you on your courage for coming down here and telling your story,” Nutall said, adding that her bully is now in prison. “I apologize that we didn’t act on this faster.”

William Morvant, a gay student at DISD’s Booker T. Washington High School, told the board he came out in seventh grade and attempted suicide twice. He said his memories of DISD will be mostly of bullying, harassment and being called “inhumane words.”

“I’m here to speak today because if this policy were in tact, I believe I would have had a better growing up experience in school,” Morvant said. “I wouldn’t have had to go taking 20 pain pills to kill myself to get rid of the pain, cutting just to get those words that I was called out.”

Others from the LGBT community who addressed the board prior to the vote were Dennis Coleman, executive director of Equality Texas; Omar Narvaez, vice president of LULAC #4871-The Dallas Rainbow Council; Delaney Hillan, also a student at Booker T. Washington; and Cece Cox, executive director of Resource Center Dallas.

Dozens more from the community attended the meeting, standing when speakers took the microphone and erupting in applause after the vote.

—  John Wright

Dallas City Council resolution condemns bullying, notes that LGBT students are often the victims

As Unfair Park first reported last week, the Dallas City Council on Wednesday will consider a resolution to condemn all bullying, harassment and intimidation at schools in the city. The two-page resolution, submitted by seven council members, notes that “children and youth with disabilities and children and youth who are lesbian, gay, or trans-gender, or who are perceived to be so, [are] at particularly high risk of being bullied by their peers … ”

The resolution was submitted by Angela Hunt, Pauline Medrano, Delia Jasso, Dwaine Caraway, Carolyn Davis, Steve Salazar and Tennell Atkins. If you’ll remember, Michael Piazza, executive director of Hope for Peace and Justice, addressed the City Council and requested just such a resolution three weeks ago (you can watch video of Piazza’s remarks here). Since then, the Dallas Independent School District’s board of trustees has opted to move forward with a new bullying policy that would specifically protect LGBT students. So at this point the City Council resolution is like icing on the cake. And just in case you really like icing, we’ve posted the full text below.

—  John Wright

U.S. Department of Education warns schools that anti-gay bullying can violate civil rights laws

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan
Secretary of Education Arne Duncan

“It Gets Better” has been a success. Videos and public appearances by people like Councilman Joel Burns led to videos by President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

A transgender North Dallas High School student’s attempt to run for homecoming queen ended with a rally of support at her school as well as an appearance on MTV.

Many young people have gotten the message but so have school districts and even the U.S. Department of Education.

The education department announced Tuesday that school districts that do nothing to combat bullying will lose money. The letter said the guidelines “do include protection against harassment of members of religious groups based on shared ethnic characteristics as well as gender and sexual harassment of gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, and transgender individuals.”

The announcement also said that the White House will convene a conference on bullying early next year.

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said:

“Bullying is a problem that shouldn’t exist. No one should ever feel harassed or unsafe in a school simply because they act or think or dress differently than others. To every student who feels threatened or harassed—for whatever reason—please know that you are not alone. Please know that there are people who love you. And please know that we will protect you.”

—  David Taffet

LGBT activists to raise money, awareness for female workers who’ve sued Dallas Fire-Rescue

Get Equal Now is planning a “Ribbons and Roses” rally and candlelight vigil for Sunday, Oct. 17, at 7:30 p.m. in front of Dallas City Hall to show solidarity with female employees of Dallas Fire Rescue who say they have faced harassment and discrimination on the job. And to raise money to pay for the rally, some women will become “kings” when they stage the “King for A Night” drag king fundraising show on Friday, Oct. 15, at 10 p.m. at The Brick.

The show will star C.D. “Jaime Fauxx” Kirven, Elizabeth “Julian” Pax, AB aka Twisher, Laura R. aka Prynce, and more. And if you want to be one of the “more,” just e-mail Kirven at cdkirven@aol.com by Tuesday, Oct. 5.

For more information, check out the “King for A Night” Facebook page. Show up with a copy of the flier below and get into the show free. Fliers will be available at businesses along Cedar Springs Road and at Resource Center Dallas.

—  admin

Texas schools that don’t protect kids against anti-gay bullying now risk Title IX lawsuits

Stacy Dorman and Debi Ellison have convinced the U.S. Department of Education to investigate their bullying complaint against the Birdville Independent School District.

Two pieces of good news, if you will, on the bullying front today.

First, the Georgetown Independent School District has settled a lawsuit brought by the mother of now-16-year-old Ryan Mitchell, who has reportedly endured years of bullying based on his perceived sexual orientation.

Neither Texas nor the federal government explicitly prohibits anti-gay bullying in schools. But this lawsuit is part of a very positive trend in which the U.S. Department of Education under President Barack Obama is treating anti-gay bullying as a violation of Title IX, which prohibits discrimination based on gender in any education program that receives federal funding. Austin’s KXAN.com reports:

“This is the first suit that the Texas Civil Rights Project has brought under title 9 alleging discrimination based on gender stereotyping and sexual orientation,” said Todd Batson, with the Texas Civil Rights Project. “However, that’s a developing area of the law.”

“I was spit on. I was knocked unconscious. My books were thrown in the trash. My finger was broken, lots of stuff,” said Ryan Mitchell, 16. “People called me gay, faggot on a daily basis.”

Terms of the settlement haven’t been disclosed, but they will include the district working with the Anti-Defamation League’s anti-bullying program, No Place for Hate.

Meanwhile, a little closer to home, a lesbian couple has succeeded in convincing the Department of Education to investigate — under Title IX — longstanding complaints of bullying against the Birdville Independent School District.

The couple, Stacy Dorman and Debi Ellison, allege that their 12-year-old son, Caine Smith, has been the victim of sexual harassment, also prohibited by Title IX. We don’t know all the details of the case, but we’re guessing the bullying is at least partly related to the fact that Caine has two moms and long hair. CBS 11 has the story.

UPDATE: We should know better than to post something like this without calling Ken Upton at Lambda Legal. Upton sent over a lengthy e-mail clarifying — and correcting — my legal analysis. In a nutshell, Upton says public school students have long been protected against anti-gay bullying under the constitutional rights of equal protection and free speech. “I just wanted to be sure we point out that while this administration has demonstrated that it cares more about the health and well-being of students than some prior administrations, and the full weight of the Department of Education indeed does change the equation in our favor, these protections are not new. More parents and attorneys willing to represent students need to be aware of them.” I’ve posted Upton’s full analysis after the jump.

—  John Wright

Straight guy claims discrimination based on sexual orientation

A salesman at Gucci’s 5th Avenue store in New York City said he was fired because he’s straight and filed a $5 million lawsuit, according to the New York Daily News.

Untitled 1The story is interesting mostly because of the way it is mishandled. Nowhere in the article does the writer point out that it is perfectly legal to fire someone because of sexual orientation. Heterosexual is a sexual orientation and this employee may have been the victim of discrimination. That’s why we need ENDA, the Employment Non-Discrimination  Act. It will protect everyone, because everyone has a sexual orientation.

The next thing that the story misses is that the guy may have been fired because of his sexual orientation (perfectly wrong but legal) but the scenario they describe details sexual harassment. Now, that’s illegal no matter which sexes are involved. Sexual harassment has to do with a higher ranking employee making the workplace uncomfortable for other employees through the use of sex. That’s a case this guy could win, if the details as described by the paper, are true.

—  David Taffet

Houston mayor issues sweeping non-discrimination order

Parker’s directives include protection for transgender community

Mayor Annise Parker
Mayor Annise Parker

HOUSTON — Lesbian Mayor Annise Parker has issued an executive order protecting LGBT city employees that is possibly the most comprehensive in the nation.

Parker’s order replaces one signed by her predecessor, Bill White, the Democratic nominee for Texas governor. White’s order covered sexual orientation and was similar to protections for gay, lesbian and bisexual employees in Dallas.

“I felt it important that our written policy reflect what has long been the practice of the city, which is we do not discriminate,” Parker told Dallas Voice.

Parker’s order, which includes gender identity/expression, was signed on March 25 and took effect immediately.

“The purpose of this Executive Order is to prohibit discrimination and/or retaliation on the basis of sexual orientation and/or gender identity at every level of municipal government, including hiring, contracting and/or access to City facilities and programs/activities,” the order states.

The goal is to provide a work environment free of discrimination and harassment based on either sexual orientation or gender identity, according to the order. It covers anyone doing business with the city including Houston’s contractors and vendors as well as employees.

Both gender identity and gender expression are addressed.

“Gender identity,” the order explains, “May not correspond to the individual’s body or gender assigned at birth.”

—  David Taffet

Democrat forced from office after gay incident

Rep. Eric Massa
Rep. Eric Massa

First term Democratic representative Eric Massa announced his resignation from Congress last week citing a recurrence of cancer.

Yesterday he accused White House chief-of-staff Ram Emanuel of forcing him out of office as retribution for voting against health care reform, according to the New York Times.

He said he was forced from office because of sexual harassment of a male aide. Massa is opposite-sex married. The incident is being investigated by the House ethics committee.

A White House spokesman dismissed the claim.

While this sounds like the case of Calif. State senator Roy Ashburn last week, an outed gay man who has stood firmly against LGBT rights, here’s what I found Massa has said about equal rights:

I know from personal experience in the military that the current policy, Don’t ask, don’t tell, doesn’t work. I fully support civil unions and equal legal rights for all Americans. Although civil unions do not provide all of the answers for the issues facing same sex couples, I believe they are a good start, and I support them.

I do not support an amendment to the U.S. Constitution banning gay marriage; that is a wedge issue and a political ploy designed to distract voters from the massive failures of the Bush administration and Congress; it would also be the first amendment in our country’s history to explicitly restrict rights.

—  David Taffet